We have gotten wave after wave of terrible news during the COVID-19 pandemic. With each day, we needlessly lose more people to the virus. As we enter 2021 the deaths continue to mount at ever increasing rates. Today is no different. We learned today that Steve Lightle passed away due to cardiac arrest brought on by COVID-19. Lightle was just 61.
This news hit me hard. Steve Lightle was a talented artist on my favorite comic book of all time: The Legion of Super-Heroes. In 1984, Lightle replaced Keith Giffen as the artist for the Legion of Super-Heroes. Lightle was the Legion artist from 1984-1986 which included Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #3-5, 7-10, 12-14, 16, and 23. Lightle continued to provide art for the covers of the Legion of Super-Heroes until 1988.
I figured now would be a wonderful time to honor Steve Lightle and look back at some of his work on the Legion of Super-Heroes during their most successful time period: The 1980s.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #3, Lightle joined the title and quickly impressed with his slick art that was a perfect match to the Sci-Fi world of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Lightle wasted no time in showing off his ability to draw dynamic fight scenes.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #4, Lightle got the privilege of drawing the dramatic death of Karate Kid. I never respected Keith Giffen for his immaturity when it came to his personal bias against Karate Kid. Val Armorr is a fantastic character. Giffen not being able to see that was his own limitation. At any rate, at least Lightle did Val justice by drawing an excellent scene. In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #5, Lightle drew a dramatic funeral worthy of Val’s character. Such an impressive page.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #7, Lightle shows off his excellent use of motion to make a dialogue-heavy scene more visually appealing. Imagine artists doing more of this these days. In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #8, Lightle got to draw the opening story in the “Who Shot Laurel Kent” mystery. I always liked the use of shadows to emphasize this ominous moment. Also, the decision to have Pol and Laurel have their hands cover her wound with the blood dripping down made for a more dramatic shot than seeing the actual wound.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #9, Lightle delivered a wonderful double-page splash shot of our Legionnaires relaxing in the headquarters during their downtime. I always loved it when Paul Levitz would take some time to show the Legionnaires recreating and enjoying their downtime between missions. It helped to make the Legionnaires more realistic and relatable. It also helped with the university dorm-life vibe of the Legion headquarters.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #13, Lightle delivered another wonderful scene of the Legionnaires recreating in the Legion headquarters. Check out what game Sun Boy and Star Boy are playing! That’s right! Holographic Dungeons and Dragons! So wonderfully 1980s!
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #14, Lightle got to design the look of one of the new Legionnaires: Quislet! You know, I always hated Quislet. But, it still was a cool design. Lightle also got to deliver the new look of Sensor Girl who we would later discover was Princess Projectra! At any rate, this is an excellent page welcoming in the new Legionnaires with the long-standing Legion members looking over them.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #16, Lightle got to handle the death of Super-Girl during Crisis on Infinite Earths. This issue tore me up! I felt so bad for Brainiac 5. Lightle did a wonderful job conveying Brainy’s pain.
In Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #23, Lightle got to draw the reunion of the Legion with Superboy. I always loved this page in particular. It is so cool looking.
Now that we got to sample some of Lightle’s wonderful interior panels it is time to bask in the glory of his covers. Even after Lightle stopped handling the interior art he continued to do the cover art for the Legion for another twenty issues.
The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #16 is one of my all-time favorite Legion covers. This is such a powerful image. It punches the reader square in the chest.
The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #25 is when Levitz finally revealed Sensor Girl’s secret identity. Lightle just nailed it with this cover. The cover made the reader eager to read this issue and discover the big reveal. Talk about selling the sizzle!
The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #27 sells the appearance of iconic villain: Mordru! I love the composition of this cover.
Lightle absolutely crushed it with the cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #28. There are no words other than the title of the comic. I love the explosion that is even ripping through the title of the comic. This is a powerful and dynamic cover.
The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #29 heralded the return of classic Legion villain Starfinger. I dig how Lightle has Starfinger tearing through the background of the headshots of the Legionnaires.
The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #30 is another one of my all-time favorite Legion covers. I love the use of negative space. This cover effectively conveys the desolation and hopelessness enveloping Brainy.
The cover of Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #34 is fantastic. I dig the action of Universo viciously taking down Wildfire and Tellus. And Dreamy’s sexy pose on the side? That’s the cherry on top of this cover!
Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #37 cover is great for a couple of reasons. The main reason is the dynamic action of Superboy flying through the Smallville banner and heading straight to the reader. The secondary reason is that Lightle managed to pull off not one but two buttshots. Well played, Mr. Lightle. Well played.
Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #40 is another excellent Starfinger cover. I dig how Lightle draws the giant Starfinger hand crushing several Legionnaires. This cover sells the action that Levitz was going to deliver in this issue.
Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #42 is a flat out cool cover. I like how Lightle draws Laurel to play off the mystery of her character. This is just a well designed and nicely detailed cover.
Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 3 #44 is a highly energetic cover. Lightle’s art leaps off the cover and immediately captures your eye. This is a cover that just begs the reader to buy the comic and see what is inside.
Rest in Peace, Steve Lightle. Long Live The Legion.
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